There has been much discussion in anthropology of the problem of belief and of the difficulties inherent in understanding and interpreting alternative life-worlds. One consequence of anthropological understanding and interpretation being intimately tied to the epistemological and ethical project of contextualization is that other people's knowledge is often rendered as parochial, defined by its local contexts and scope. This article discusses the recent conversion to radical Protestant beliefs in a community in northern Kenya that has resulted in new forms of knowledge and agency. The moral continuities and discontinuities between researcher and researched cannot in this situation be glossed by making the informants rational in context or by asserting the existence of culturally distinct worldviews. The article explores how this sets up a series of epistemological and ethical dilemmas that shape both the research project and the research process.
Perspectives from Africa
Henrietta L. Moore
Mariano González-Delgado and Manuel Ferraz-Lorenzo
This article explains the approach to mass consumption developed in social studies textbooks in the early years of the transition to democracy in Spain. It begins by examining the way in which school textbooks represented consumer society and mass media in the late 1970s. This is followed by an in-depth explanation of the reasons that led the authors of these textbooks to choose one theoretical framework over another. Above all, this article emphasizes the complexity and variety of the historical materials used to represent consumer society, and how this process of social construction is reflected in the textbook content of the time.
Revitalising and Reframing a 'Christian' Continent
Peter Jan Margry
In the economic and political unification process of Europe, the idea of the creation of a pan-European identity was put high on the political agenda. With the failure of this effort, the emphasis shifted to the apparently less fraught concept of 'shared cultural heritage'. This article analyses how the politically guided rediscovery of Europe's past has contributed to the creation of a 'Religion of Heritage', not only by raising up a political altar for cultural heritage, but also through the revitalisation, instrumentalisation and transformation of the Christian heritage, in order to try to memorialise and affirm a collective European identity based on its Christian past. In the context of this process, the network of European pilgrims' ways appears to have been an especially successful performative form of heritage creation, which has both dynamised Christian roots as a relevant trans-European form of civil religion that has taken shape, capitalising on the new religious and spiritual demands created by secularisation, and responded to the demand for shared - and Christian inspired - European values and meanings in times of uncertainty and crisis.
Relative Painlessness in Shakespeare’s Laughter at War
How do we understand Shakespeare’s invitation to laugh in the context of war? Previous critical accounts have offered too simple a view: that laughter undercuts military ideals. Instead, this article draws on the Aristotelian description of laughable ‘deformity’ and Plato’s description of laughable ignorance in order to characterize Shakespeare’s laughter in the context of war more carefully as an expression of ‘relative painlessness’. It discusses how the fraught amusement of Coriolanus (Coriolanus), the reciprocality of Falstaff and Hotspur as laughable military failures (1 Henry IV) and the laughter of Bertram at Paroles (All’s Well That Ends Well) each engage with an ancient philosophical conundrum articulated poignantly by St. Augustine: the requirement that a Christian civilization engage in war to defend itself against honour-obsessed aggressors without turning into a like aggressor itself. Shakespeare’s laughter at war enacts the desire for that balance.
On the Cultural Politics of Religion and Education
Oddly but tellingly, anthropology has largely treated religion and education separately. Anthropological studies of education have tended to focus on reason and rationality, while those of religion have focused on ritual, belief, magic, and ceremony. Yet there is a missed opportunity, I argue in this essay—one that is perhaps hidden by the history of anthropology itself—for seeing religion and education as folding into one another and at times being indistinguishable. Viewing religion and education as recursively related—including in anthropological and social theory—opens up a conceptual locus and mode for analyzing how the public realm is being newly transformed, and how political orders and governmental regimes emerge, sometimes in accord with, other times in contradistinction to, a 'four-square' model of 'public-education/private-religion' that is associated classically with the modern state.
Montserratian Migrants' Experiences of Global Processes in British Methodism
Migrants to Europe often perceive themselves as entering a secular society that threatens their religious identities and practices. Whilst some sociological models present their responses in terms of cultural defence, ethnographic analysis reveals a more complex picture of interaction with local contexts. This essay draws upon ethnographic research to explore a relatively neglected situation in migration studies, namely the interactions between distinct migration cohorts - in this case, from the Caribbean island of Montserrat, as examined through their experiences in London Methodist churches. It employs the ideas of Weber and Bourdieu to view these migrants as 'religious carriers', as collective and individual embodiments of religious dispositions and of those socio-cultural processes through which their religion is reproduced. Whilst the strategies of the cohort migrating after the Second World War were restricted through their marginalised social status and experience of racism, the recent cohort of evacuees fleeing volcanic eruptions has had greater scope for strategies which combat secularisation and fading Methodist identity.
Galina Lindquist and Simon Coleman
In this introduction we provide a genealogy of anthropological writings on belief and discuss the politics of using the term in cross-cultural contexts. We summarize the contributions to this issue and argue for the virtues of writing 'against'—rather than 'with'—the term in ethnographic texts. The article concludes with reflections on the way anthropological discussions of belief have expressed wider assumptions about the representation of culture.
This article examines The Word of Faith, one of the largest congregations of "modern" charismatic Christians in post-Soviet Lithuania. The ethnographic focus is on the church's extensive network of trust, altruistic exchange, and sociability, known as bendravimas. These networks are theorized as a kind of civil society that allows its members to claim "ethical distinction" and enables them to take a critical stance toward the surrounding social milieu, perceived to be in moral disarray. The Word of Faith is discussed in relation to the national Catholic Church (its principal religious rival) and vis-à-vis broader Lithuanian society. The article suggests that it is concrete everyday practices deemed to be moral and civil, rather than abstract Christian precepts, that motivate Word of Faith believers to be "good people." It is also argued that such practices constitute important means for engendering and reproducing the charisma of this "modern" evangelical congregation.
In 1947, at the Second Conference of the International Council of Christians and Jews, the Christian participants published a document known as ‘The Ten Points of Seelisberg’. This document was addressed to the churches, as a result of having ‘recently witnessed an outburst of antisemitism, which has led to the persecution, and extermination of millions of Jews’ (ICCJ 1947). This can be considered the first Christian statement on Judaism prompted by the Holocaust, and as such one of the triggers in the development of Jewish–Christian relations that has taken place since that tragedy. As David Fox Sandmel has noted, ‘The Shoah…has provided a moral imperative for Jews and Christians to move beyond traditional antagonisms’ (Frymer-Kensky, Novak, Ochs, Sandmel and Signer 2000: 367). Since the Holocaust, there has been increased dialogue between Jews and Christians, as well as increased scholarship in the field, and many statements relating to it.
Commission for Religious Relationships with the Jews
:2, ‘I held out my hands all day to a rebellious people’. The common feeling that Christianity in general and Pope Pius XII in particular did not do enough to counteract Hitler’s ‘final solution’. History of the Impact of Nostra Aetate Over the Last